Leftist wins Mexico’s presidential election amid promise of ambitious transformation

Mexico voted in a new leftist government on 1 July in an election that was dominated by issues such as corruption, organised crime and economic instability among others. The success of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador or “AMLO” in becoming the country’s president marked a break from the traditional political scene, which has largely been dominated by two key parties namely the National Action Party (PAN) and Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). For many, the election of AMLO has not only fueled hope in Latin America’s second largest economy for greater prosperity, amid high-level of corruption, a sluggish economy and worsening violence related to the ongoing drug war. It was, however, also a culmination of their anger toward the ineffective governments in the past in tackling these issues. It is therefore not surprising that his supporters turned up in droves to greet him in Mexico City when he was announced as the winner of the presidential race.

Despite the euphoria, there will still be a lot of questions as to which direction AMLO will take Mexico as his promise to dramatically transform the country has been rather vague or even rhetorical at times. On top of his populist promises, there have also been concerns that Mexico under AMLO will seek to confront her northern neighbor, the United States, in a more aggressive manner amid differences with President Donald Trump on a slew of issues including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and immigration.  With a few more months to go before AMLO is officially sworn in as the new president of Mexico, it has been widely speculated that he will lay down further details of his ambitious plan in steering the country out of its current predicament.

Extreme summer weather triggers deadly wildfires in Greece and flooding in Japan

As one of the hottest summers seen in years swept through parts of Europe, wildfires causing huge loss of lives and properties were also reported. Greece became the hardest-hit country in the continent when wildfires erupted in the Attica region near Athens, killing at least 74 people. People who lived in the coastal area of Rafina were forced to evacuate as the fires spread rapidly. A three-day period of national mourning was subsequently declared and an EU-wide response was activated to help Greece in combating the wildfires. In the United Kingdom, similar incidents were also recorded in Lancashire, Londonderry and Ceredigion. In Asia, it was a contrasting situation for Japan as deadly flooding hit south of the country in early July while a heatwave lingered in the north.

The flooding in the south left a trail of destruction in at least 15 prefectures and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was eventually forced to cancel a summit with EU leaders due to the crisis. While the floodwater receded in the south, the heatwave in the North prompted authorities to declare a natural disaster with 65 deaths recorded. In Kumagaya for instance, temperature soared to 41.1C, becoming the highest ever recorded in Japan. In South Korea, ten people also died due to heatstroke and other heat-related illnesses amid the scorching weather. Besides hot weather, parts of Asia were also lashed with typhoons such as Son-Tinh and Ampil, that caused havoc in the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and China among others. Flights and ground transportation were disrupted as cities and towns were hit by flooding and landslides.

Daring cave rescue in Chiang Mai captivates the world

It was a race against time in Chiang Mai, Thailand when 12 boys from a local football team and a coach got trapped in the Tham Luang cave for days. The group was first declared missing on 23 June before they were discovered almost 10 days later in the cave. While the discovery was marked with hope, the rescue efforts proved to be a test mettle affair due to the floodwater that has partially submerged the cave, resulting in it becoming a high-risk extraction operation. In the days that followed, the interest grew from not only the Thai public but also across the globe. Global news outlets continued to cover the story on the ground while foreign governments such as the United States, United Kingdom and China among others offered to help with their expertise and equipment. The pressure also intensified throughout the rescue operation as more rain were in the forecast. The rescue team was also hit by a distressing news when one of the Thai Navy SEAL divers Sanam Luang, who delivered supplies to the group died due to asphyxiation. After few days of deliberation and careful planning, the rescue team consisting of 18 divers eventually moved in and all of the 12 boys and their coach were brought out alive in the span of two days. It was a moment of relief for not only close ones of those trapped but also people around the world who have been holding their breath throughout the entire rescue operation.

Trump meets Putin in Helsinki as tensions simmer with European allies at NATO meeting

US President Donald Trump met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Helsinki during a high-profile summit between leaders of both countries. His summit with Putin followed his trip to Brussels for the NATO meeting where he chastised the alliance’s European members for not spending enough on defense budgets. Trump’s comment on the alliance was a far cry from his meeting with Putin in which he appeared to have softened US stance despite FBI claims of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. While Trump claimed in a tweet that the summit was “better” than the meeting with NATO, it is likely to raise further concerns among Washington’s allies on his administration’s commitment to deter an ever-aggressive Russia on the global stage. This has not been the first time Trump appeared to have irritated US allies at a multilateral forum as he had also done in June, slamming the Canadian PM Justin Trudeau over trade issues at the G7 summit in Quebec. On the domestic front, Trump’s failure to confront Russia on numerous issues including the alleged meddling was also being regarded as a sign of weakness. Some commentators have even gone to the extent of calling him a “traitor” for appeasing Putin, though he had vehemently defended the summit and criticized the media instead for misrepresenting his statement at a post-summit press conference. The latest blunder is likely to pile more pressure on his administration to come clean on Russia’s role in the election as detractors continued to cry foul over the purported collusion between both sides.

Violence mars election in Pakistan as Imran Khan claims victory

Millions of Pakistanis headed to the polls in late July amid a slew of violence as well as allegations of vote-rigging by political parties. As one of the closest elections fought in years, excitement could clearly be felt in the air with various parties vying for the 272 seats in the lower house of parliament, as well as 577 provincial assembly seats. The biggest showdown of the race no doubt came from the main parties in the political scene, namely Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) as well as the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), led-by world famous cricketeer-turned-politician, Imran Khan. With Khan’s victory confirmed the days that followed, questions remained if the results will be accepted by other traditional parties and how reconciliation efforts could be panned out amid deep divisions in the country. Continuous instability will only fuel violence in the country that already experienced a deadly campaigning period in which bombings were reported prior to and on election day. On a positive side, the election of Khan also marked a new chapter in Pakistani political scene as he promised greater accountability, riding on the desire for change by the citizens. Congratulatory messages trickled in for Khan and early celebrations by PTI members also took place in several cities in the immediate aftermath of the election.

France claims World Cup crown after beating Croatia in Moscow

France was crowned champion after defeating Croatia 4-2 during the FIFA World Cup final in Russia in mid-July. It was the country’s second World Cup victory since 1998 and the country’s citizens erupted as the final whistle blew in Luzhinki Stadium, Moscow. Despite the jubilant atmosphere, police officers were eventually deployed to control the situation as celebrations in Paris turned unruly, resulting in several shops being vandalized along the infamous Champs-Élysées. Apart from the celebrations, the World Cup in Russia also marked the first time in which the controversial Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology was used extensively. Although some derided its usage for awarding contentious penalties, FIFA defended its decision after a two-year trial and indicated that the technology will continue to be deployed in future games. Other federations such as UEFA were not sure, and the technology is unlikely to be featured in the English Premier League. As the curtains drew to a close in Russia, attention will now be shifted to Qatar when it hosts the games between November and December 2022.